15 Simple Tips for Christmas on a Budget

15 Simple Tips for Christmas on a Budget

UK retail sales are expected to reach £82 billion – yes you read that right – £82 BILLION pounds this festive period.  That’s only a slight drop on the same time last year, despite the cost-of-living crisis.  It’s no coincidence that credit card debt spirals during the Christmas season and as such it is a time many find very stressful, because meeting festive costs can be hard.  This is because, in this consumerist society, many people end up overspending.  But there’s no need to panic!  If you are looking at how to do Christmas on a budget we have some mse simple old style tips to help you keep control of your Christmas spending, so you can start the new year in the black. 

Even better, the only tools you need are simple notebooks and some reliable gel pens!  Using nothing more complicated than an a5 notebook and a black pen, you can keep track of all your festive planning.  Indeed, your chosen a5 organiser can then act as a useful template for years to come – a single place to keep your Christmas plans and budgets, that you can refer to over and over again. 



If this sounds boring, we promise it’s not!  In fact, creating a Christmas to do list and sticking to a Christmas budget doesn’t mean you won’t have fun during the holiday season.  Here are our top 15 Christmas tips for budgeting for Christmas:

  1. Do Not Compare

Whilst your Instagram and Facebook feeds may be awash with idyllic Christmas images, we urge you not to fall into the comparison trap.  Because it really is just that, a trap! Whilst the pressure to create the perfect Christmas is ever-present, take a step back and don’t give in to ‘comparisonitis’.  99.9 percent of the time these social media images are not real.  Most people are like you and me – muddling through the season; making do with what they already have and being more thoughtful about their gifting and eating.  No-one’s real life looks as flawless as they would have you believe.  Remember, money never buys happiness and there is no such thing as the picture-perfect Christmas.

  1. Set a Spending Cap

A Christmas budget planner is invaluable.  Before you do ANYTHING else, we suggest you decide what budget works for YOU.  Just remember, this is not a number you WANT to spend, it’s a number that reflects what you can afford right now.  If you ignore your current financial situation you may well start the new year regretting what you spent during the festive season – and, quite possibly, taking most of the following year paying it off.  If you live in a big household, you might want to consider agreeing a spending limit between you all and then dividing out costs, so everything is shared evenly.  Or you may agree budgets in advance with your family and friends, so no one overspends.

  1. Record Every Penny Spent

If you haven’t done this before, it’s a real gamechanger!  What’s more it is also super simple to do.  Take a look at the budget tracker below.  It’s something you can easily recreate yourself, adapting it to include more, or less columns to suit your needs.  An a5 lined notebook or a dotted notebook layout is perfect for this, as well as a black gel pen.



  1. Make a Gift List

Do this BEFORE you hit the shops!  Sit down and write a list of everyone who you need to buy a present for.  From immediate family, close friends and god-children, to co-workers, teachers and the unforeseen visitor, who may pop by unexpectedly.  Put a strict spending limit by each person.  We suggest prioritising your spending allocation – with the most important people assigned a higher gifting budget.  That old adage, it’s the thought that counts is absolutely true.  A useful, thoughtful, personal gift will always mean so much more than a statement present that the receiver doesn’t really want.  The key here is that once you have made your list, don’t exceed the amount you’ve earmarked!


  1. Handmade Doesn’t Equal Cheap Christmas

Whilst handmade gifts are fabulous to receive, don’t fall into the trap of thinking they are always cheaper!  We know this from experience!  One Christmas we spent a day making gooey chocolate brownie gifts for teachers.  By the time we’d paid for all the ingredients and wrapped them up nicely, the total cost was far more than if we’d bought them ready made from a shop!  Our point is, be careful about keeping control on every single cost.  We now make a list in our Christmas personalised notebook of each and every element needed to make our homemade gifts.  In this way we can keep an accurate account of costs and not go over our set Christmas gifting budget – remember tips 2, 3 and 4!  

  1. Stocking Control

It’s so easy to overbuy stocking stuffers!  We’re all guilty of this!  As we go around the shops we often spot something small and fun that our children may enjoy as a stocking gift and buy it.  All too soon you realise you haven’t just filled a stocking, you’ll need a sack to fit all the gifts in!  Once again, create a separate stocking filler gift list – to keep an accurate record of all your purchases.  

  1. Avoid Impulse Buys

This is a cardinal rule!  In fact, if you are going out to the shops, we recommend taking cash, not cards with you. It stops the temptation to impulse buy, because you are physically unable to go over your set budget!  This isn’t always the case when you have a credit card with you. Even if you’re not going out Christmas shopping, be strict and stick to your set budgets, so you limit ONLINE impulse buys too.  

  1. Christmas wrapping is NOT essential!

We all know it’s the gift inside that counts!  Instead of buying costly paper, get inventive with your wrapping.  Do you read newspapers that come with weekend supplement magazines?  Why not use these colourful pages to wrap your presents up in….once you’ve finished reading them, of course.

  1. Buy Useful Gifts

Whilst life’s little luxuries may initially be exciting to unwrap at Christmas, they can often prove disappointing as they are not useful, so become redundant quickly.  Whilst practical presents may not, at first glance, appear so exciting, they are usually the ones that are most used and so greatly appreciated. Gifting luxury notebooks that are also personalised notebooks offers the best of both worlds – they are beautiful AND handy. 

  10.Controlled Christmas Catering

Another big Christmas cost is usually the festive food and drink.  After all, much of the season revolves around feeding family and friends.  Instead of visiting the supermarket on an ad hoc basis, plan every single meal you will be cooking.  Next, work out every single ingredient you will  need  and make an extensive Xmas food shopping list.  Then, whether you are shopping IRL or online, you can check each ingredient you add to your shopping basket against this master list.  It’s such an easy and effortless way to keep within your festive food and drink budget.


Photo: Pinterest

  1. Resist Sales Temptation

This is the time of year when retailers bombard you with offers.  Stay firm and only make considered, PLANNED purchases.  If you are lucky enough to see your chosen retailer has a special discount, that’s brilliant, but don’t be suckered in to buying more than you need.  Remember, if it isn’t on your present list or menu planner, DON’T BUY IT!

  1. Bye Bye Emotional Buying

Don’t let your emotions sway your spending.  Whether it’s in store or online, if you see something you like, that ISN’T on your gift list or menu planner….STEP AWAY!  Do NOT buy it. 

  1. Be Prepared

We swear by stocking up in advance.  This can be anything from buying stocking stuffers and presents throughout the year, to adding one or two extra ingredients to your weekly food shop in the run up to the big day.  In short, any canny buying strategy that means you won’t find yourself faced with one or two HUGE last minute shopping bills, is a good habit to get into.  Again, keeping a notebook filled with the details of all your Christmas purchases throughout the year is such a simple habit to get into and will ensure you are completely prepared for the expense of the season, in advance.

  1. Avoid Buy Now Pay Later

Seriously, just DON’T!  Any scheme that offers this service simply encourages over-spending.  Don’t forget, it might seem like a bargain at the moment of purchase, but you always have to pay it back – you are just delaying the payment pain!

  1. Say No to Waste

Save your post-Christmas pennies.  You can put leftover food in the freezer, to be eaten at a later date and if you receive a gift you don’t like, or that doesn’t work for you, try exchanging it, or sell it online. 

Put our tips into action and you’ll enjoy a festive Christmas, but without any financial heartache.  For fun presents we think you can never go wrong with John Lewis gift ideas and for more thrifty festive tips, visit Money Saving Expert.  Remember, it’s the season of celebration and with a little forethought and planning it’s possible to have a wonderful time, without breaking the bank.